Down Among the Stones

I can’t see any of what lies below. Only a guess, a feeling that the little seam on the far side ‘seems’ like the place to sit. Just a hunch that they are there lying in wait unfettered by the fast water rushing by. Their sleek bodies slide through it all, waiting for a cue, maybe a change in the current, or the fall of night, or, this morning, the light dawning over leaden skies full of rain. They know those stones where they can just sit and watch it all go by. They see the crawfish poke its head briefly up, colored burnt orange and then disappearing under the cobbles again. The water drops slowly at night and, still, they just sit and wait.

This weekend will mark two weeks without swinging a fly line.  While I’ve been out to the river for a couple of brief walks, I’ve yet to participate for any length of time in the refreshed riverscape that is appearing all over.  In other words, I’m approaching desperate status for some extended water time.

Sloppily tied with poor form, yet these things are irresistable when worked slowly just over the bottom.
Sloppily tied with poor form, yet these things are irresistable when worked slowly just over the bottom. Tail: golden pheasant (red and gold tied in split) Body: dyed alpaca (orange and purple). Hackle: rear of dyed ringneck rump; front of coot, Wing of paired pheasant rump. All ribbed and counter-wrapped.

Prototype Christmas Gift

Playing with the alignments, colors and, of course, the flies for a gift.  I ended up placing the flies upside down in relation to the hanger on back, so I will have to do a version 2 which is OK since I figured out a better way to secure to mounting posts for the flies and I will color the wood inside a light brown perhaps.

Suicide dogs

The dogs lie in waiting during the dawn hours.  A truck zipping by at 50 miles per hour constitutes fair game apparently.  Twice they seemed to just miss the front tire.  Maybe that was their version of success – game won.  Crossing and walking down to the bottom of the north-south run at the corner another pack of dogs wandered by, sniffing the morning air -making the rounds of their turf.  They were gone, my fingers were already turning numb by the time I worked out a first cast – fish on!  A feisty half pounder landed.  The sun had not begun to clear the ridge yet, the river was steaming off its accumulated heat, and the fish were right were they were supposed to be.  Everything was working.

A couple of missed grabs (that coulda been the ONE) here and there, a few more half pounders to hand, and I decided to try the wade across to the East-West Run: Steelhead Shangri-La.  In some years the wade isn’t doable.  At the crossing point the river crosses back to the near side cutting a slot along the willows with some sunken wood tangles thrown in to roughen things up a bit.  My first try was denied – the slot was too deep.  Moving farther up, I found I could cross by wading straight across past the slot, then straight downstream, then angle down and across to complete the mostly deep wade.  I’d have to remember the precise path coming back – and a long push of water wading upcurrent – else I’d catch the slot and get swept into the woody tangles and add to the growing pile of human carcasses that accumulates underneath the willows each year.

This was a source of some concern.  However, arriving at the top of the run I could only notice that it was better than ever.  What was nearly the perfect piece of steelhead fly water has subtly shifted to become, well, nearly perfect steelhead fly water.  That’s the thing with steelhead fishing and defining “good” water.  There’s all types of good water out there, and better yet, many variations on “perfect” water.  Just when you think you’ve found mecca, a better place likely lies just around the next bend.

Some things were still the same here, though.  Near the top, there is a rough line of boulders or bedrock along the far bank that creates a wonderful fast water lie.  And it was along the face of these boulders that my ruminations and reminscings came to a halt.  A big halt.  The swing just stopped and I came fast into a cartwheeling adult.  It all happens so hard and fast that describing the sequence of actions that happen from cast to hook set would just be guesses.

I finally managed to work a hatchery adult to the bank, snap a quick picture and send it on its way – hopefully to feed a hungry anglers family.  I’m not a big fan of the large numbers of steelhead and salmon that the hatchery cranks out – a whole host of issues.  Not the least of which are the thousands of anglers who travel to fish the upper reaches below the hatchery.  Up there the river is small, narrow and, in my mind, one long extension of the hatchery holding tank.  Steelhead fishing at its finest. Oh boy.  But here I am, happy to be swinging flies and hooking a hatchery steelhead.


Probably. Definitely.

Somewhere around ten, just as the river was starting to turn into an aquarium and the first gentle breeze was rustling the leaves, the off switch was hit and I left with the one adult and a dozen or so half pounders.  I need to get to work on some flies for this fast, shallow and clear water – my fly wallet has a few voids that need filling.

Roasted tomatoes

I promised myself I would take care of chores today: laundry (including folding), kitchen cleaning, vacuuming (yes, I occasionally do vacuum the house), and, the fun part, making tomato sauce!  All this prior to tomorrow’s hike into a rarely-fished stretch of water unseen to most.  The river is currently up nearly a foot and a slow drop should be ideal for an afternoon exploratory descent into this land of poison oak, free-roaming black bears and wild steelhead.

Mixing very soft coot with slightly stiffer pheasant rump to see how it responds as a "do all" fly for varying current and swing speeds.
Mixing very soft coot with slightly stiffer pheasant rump to see how it responds as a"do-all" fly for varying current and swing speeds. (yes, I know my wings are a tad too fat)

Tying with Coot – The Spey Experiment

The new coot skin arrived! substitute for heron feathers – or so I was hoping.

This really wasn’t an experiment – as others have used coot for a variety of spey flies.  But I had to see if it met my expectations of a good looking buggy fly with hackles that would stand up in the faster water fished this time of year.

The goods
The goods

Time to try it out.

I wrapped the hackle three times over the alpaca wool body to help it stand up.
I wrapped the hackle three times over the alpaca wool body to help it stand up.

The first outing confirmed it fishability and success.  The half-pounders couldn’t stay away from it.

I’m sold.